Sinusitis is an inflammatory process involving
the nasal sinuses- hollow cavities within the
cheek bones, behind the nose and eyes. The inflammation
may be infectious in nature, from viral, bacterial
or fungal growth or due to ongoing allergic process.
Sinusitis affects 31-35 million Americans and
it may last for months or years if inadequately
treated. Sinusitis can affect the nose, eyes or
middle ear. Symptoms may include colored nasal
drainage, excessive postnasal drip, cough, facial
pain and an accompanying headache.
Types of sinusitis
- Acute sinusitis, which is often caused by
a bacterial infection and usually develops as
a complication five to ten days after the first
symptoms of common cold.
- Chronic sinusitis, which also may be cause
by bacterial infection, but is more often caused
by chronic allergic inflammation similarly seen
in bronchial asthma.
People with allergies may be predisposed to develop
sinusitis. Allergies can trigger inflammation
of the sinuses and nasal mucous linings. This
inflammation prevents the sinus cavities from
clearing out bacteria, and increase chances of
developing secondary bacterial sinusitis. People
with recurring or chronic sinusitis may benefit
from having an allergy evaluation.
Structural problems in the nose, such as narrow
drainage passages, deviated septum or nasal polyps
may be another cause of sinusitis. Surgery is
sometimes needed to correct these problems.
To make a correct diagnosis, a physician must
take a detailed history and perform a physical
examination. A physician may also order tests
such as sinus X-ray, CT scan, allergy testing
or a sampling of the nasal secretions.
The physician also may perform an endoscopic
examination. This involves inserting a narrow,
flexible fiber-optic scope into the nasal cavity
through the nostrils, which allows the physician
to view the area where the sinuses drain into
Sinus infections generally require a combination
of medications. In addition to prescribing an
antibiotic when the sinusitis is caused by bacterial
infection, your physician may prescribe a medication
to reduce the blockage or control allergies. This
will keep the sinus passages open.
For people with allergies, long-term treatment
to control and reduce allergic inflammation can
be effective in preventing the development of
sinusitis. This treatment may include immunotherapy
(allergy shots), anti-inflammatory medications,
decongestants and environmental control measures.
Regular irrigation of the nasal passages may also
be beneficial. Nasal